LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s main stock index rose on Thursday after the European Central Bank signalled interest rates would remain steady through next summer, easing investors’ concerns about tightening monetary policy.
The ECB announced it would end its unprecedented bond purchase scheme by the end of this year, but said it would maintain rates at record lows at least through the summer of 2019.
The FTSE 100 .FTSE climbed 0.8 percent to a three-week high, having fallen as much as 0.7 percent earlier when a more hawkish rates outlook from the U.S. Federal Reserve weighed on equities.
High dividend-yielding healthcare stocks, which are sensitive to interest rates, boosted the index, while “bond proxy” consumer goods stocks including Imperial Brands (IMB.L) and British American Tobacco (BATS.L) also gained.
“While yesterday’s Fed hike was very much ‘hawkish’, in our view, the ECB opted to announce the end of its net asset purchases with a dovish flavour,” said Luigi Speranza, head of European market economics at BNP Paribas.
In notable single-stock moves, Unilever (ULVR.L) shares fell 2.8 percent after the consumer goods giant said a truck drivers’ strike in Brazil would hit sales more than expected.
Unilever also said it was “extremely unlikely” to stay in the FTSE 100 after its headquarters move to the Netherlands.
Rolls Royce (RR.L) shares surged 6.5 percent, the biggest boost to the index, after the engine maker announced it would cut 4,600 jobs, targeting 400 million pounds of annual savings in a restructuring effort that investors welcomed.
Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) gained 2.3 percent after its two-drug treatment for HIV met its main goal in late stage studies. [nL8N1TG355]
“At face value this is good news as competition in the HIV space has heated up, threatening GSK’s highest-margin business,” UBS analysts said in a note, adding that they needed to see more details on the trial.
Mining stocks weighed after copper prices slipped to a one-week as weaker Chinese data, including industrial output, pointed to lower-than-expected activity last month.
Stocks going ex-dividend - including Persimmon, Severn Trent, Intermediate Capital and WPP - took 4.5 points off the index.
Retailers made gains after retail sales data for May smashed forecasts as the royal wedding and sunnier weather drove Britons to spend more freely.
The general retailers index .FTNMX5370 rose 0.8 percent.
Among mid-caps, Aveva (AVV.L) shares jumped 11.8 percent to a record high after the engineering software company reported better full-year results and targeted cost savings of 25 million pounds.
“The first update on financials for the combined pro forma business reads well,” said Investec analysts.
Overall the FTSE 100 has been making progress, outperforming European markets in May, and investors have been growing more optimistic about the market’s prospects.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s June fund manager survey showed investors’ underweight in UK stocks fell to its smallest point in more than a year.
Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Mark Heinrich